Election media appearances are part and parcel of being a wannabe politician and they are an effective way to reach out to your electorate and raise your profile.
But what happens if you are chosen to be the spokesperson for the ‘crisis management’ of a current story?
During the election campaigns, there isn’t (and won’t be) a day that goes by without there being a major story or gaff that could damage a party’s image or reputation. You can only feel sorry for the person chosen to be the ‘spokesperson’ to represent the party and hopefully manage the situation until the next story breaks. Of course with this being the election, any gaff or faux pas will be forgotten when the next story breaks. A day is a long time during the election. Possible trouble shooting might be put in place when:
- A senior politician punches someone in the crowd
- A senior politician falls over when walking in front of the cameras
- A politician is quoted saying a racist or sexist comment
- A party puts out an advert and the people quoted in it haven’t given their permission
- A candidate is quoted saying a statement that contradicts the party’s policy
- A political leader has a meltdown on live radio/TV and looks a complete idiot
Of course the opposition parties will jump on these incidents (and more) to positively spin their own stories whilst being derogatory to their opposition. Also, the media loves a good story, and will want comments from both the party involved and the opposition. So what happens if you are the poor s*d chosen to be the party’s spokesperson, particularly if you think the colleague concerned is an idiot? From observations here are my top tips.
- Have prepared 5 positive sound bites about the topic/person involved
- Don’t answer any question directly that you are asked
- For any response, repeat one or more of the prepared soundbites
- Even if you are interrupted when you speak, keep on talking
- Avoid dissing anyone from the opposition; just focus on your own sound bites
- Have a stiff Gin after the interview – you’ll need one.
Of course a crisis within an election campaign is short lived – unless there are repeat gaffs, and provided you are able to keep your cool, this will blow over and some other poor s*d will be trouble shooting a story tomorrow.
As with all aspects of the election, communications, trouble shooting and branding are magnified during the campaign time because stories change constantly. In the real world, your PR company will support you in managing a damaging story and be able to advise you on your response – as well as hoping a more important story will bury yours. I guess this is what all of the political parties hope: namely that someone makes a bigger faux pas than you do at the same time, so that your election media appearance will be overshadowed by someone else fielding even more difficult questions.
During the election, we’re podcasting weekly on different aspects of communications and speaking for politicians. Listen and download our podcasts here.